Monkeypox in California: 1st state case likely in Sacramento

A person with a suspected case of monkeypox is in isolation in Sacramento County, health officials said Tuesday.

The person, who recently traveled to Europe, is isolating at home and isn’t in contact with other people.

“The individual is in isolation, is not hospitalized and is doing well,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said during a briefing Tuesday morning.

The county, she added, is coordinating with the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to identify and evaluate close contacts. “There is minimal risk to the general public,” she said.

Kasirye said she could not get into specifics of the person’s travel arrangements.

County health officials sent specimens to the CDC for confirmatory testing Monday, but Kasirye said she did not have a timeline for when those results might come back.

She also said she was not able to provide the suspected patient’s gender or age but confirmed the person is a Sacramento County resident.

“I think it’s important that if people are exhibiting some of the symptoms, especially if they have a rash that is unusual, that they contact their healthcare provider to have that checked out and make sure that if we need to do further investigation that we can do that right away,” Kasirye said.

Monkeypox is nowhere near as contagious as COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses. Among humans, it generally requires prolonged close contact or contact with bodily fluids to transmit infection.

Although monkeypox can be fatal in countries where healthcare resources are poor, a previous monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. in 2003 did not lead to any deaths.

Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to those of smallpox but are generally milder. The illness begins with fever, aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, then later develops into a rash, usually starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the bodies, turning into pus-filled sores before they fall off.

The illness can last two to four weeks. According to the World Health Organization, historically, between 0% and 11% of those with monkeypox infections have died from the disease, with the fatality rate higher among younger children.

The last major monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. occurred in 2003, leading to 71 confirmed or suspected cases — mostly in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. The confirmed cases had contact with pet prairie dogs obtained from an animal distributor in suburban Chicago that had been housed near Gambian giant rats and dormice that came from Ghana.

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